Saturday, November 12, 2016
This post is, as may be obvious, not just about Donald Trump, elected to be the 45th President of the United States.
This is also about the 45-odd percent of the American voters who did not vote (OK, I am rounding up). And, about the world political system that we had since the 1945, that is breaking now. And, with it, the 45 year old system of globalisation and free trade around which there was a common political consensus, which is now at the mercy of the 45th President of the United States.
Was I surprised that Trump managed to get elected? Not really. Was I disappointed? No, because this was always in the realm of the possible. Am I sad? Most certainly, because what it signifies and what I expect to happen next.
Apart from those few who are genuinely excited about a Trump Presidency, I got three other reactions from the people I interacted on the subject, all three I disagree with.
The first was that this was all a madness. A friend wrote on Facebook that the Brits are relieved that they can call the Yanks stupid again. A London Bar put a sign outside requiring all Americans to be accompanied by an Adult. I disagree with this because there is a pattern here which we overlook at our peril. It is not just Brexit, but there is a trend across the world, from Philippines to India to Austria to Italy and elsewhere, towards an anti-globalisation consensus. While some individuals may be voting irrationally, there is a collective picture here which is not irrational at all.
The second is that this is all inconsequential. Trump will be an one term President. While that may happen, this may be one hell of a term! With all those Supreme Court appointments that may come up within the next few years, and Republicans controlling all the branches of the Government, this may change United States forever. Indeed, some people are hoping that Republican establishment may impeach Trump, as he is bound to veer away from official party position on so many issues. We have indeed heard predictions about Trump's evident demise so many times, which have been proved wrong.
The third is an optimistic, all-American view that the decent people in America will make it all work, as they have always done in the past. Indeed, very sensible - one person tweeted that expecting Trump to fail is like wishing the Pilot to make mistakes when you are on board in the aircraft - but this is both ahistorical and elitist. Ahistorical because such turns have, in the past, impacted a country and its future, in different countries around the world but also in the United States. It is a mistake to underestimate the power of the modern state, the evil people can do for a mere promise of job and stability, and the way the actions of an empowered individual can shape the destiny of a whole people. Elitist because, underlying this view is the assumption that this is all a mistake, and a desire to treat the symptoms without curing the disease.
Instead, Trump's election is a definitive break - from the Post-War Political system and Post-WTO globalisation consensus, but part of a bigger story of Brexit and surge of Fascism across the world. The elite, as represented in Hillary Clinton, have made the rhetoric work for them for generations, handing out empty promises, meaningless hopes and pointless futures in equal measure. They have built a world of political exclusion, striving to tame active citizens into passive consumers, stripping education of ambition and engagement and making it into a tool of need fulfilment. As it seems now, this has created a political underground, a despairing kind rather than an inspired one, and the very success of liberalism, political and economic, is now undermining its existence.
It is the moment of breaking of times, apocalyptic rather than inconsequential, meaningful rather than crazy. But this is not about losing hope and writing off the next few years or decades, but to see beyond the hegemonic ideas that engulfed us. The Consumer Civilisation is crumbling under its own contradictions, and other possibilities are emerging. We are looking at a new generation for whom all that selfish self-promotion is so last century, and for whom, social responsibility is cool again! Indeed, the political left is devoid of leadership - that is why 45% stays home - but when ideas break down, possibilities and leaders who inspire emerge. My mood is sombre, but my expectations soar - it is the hour of the ideas all over again.
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How To Live
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T S Eliot
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